Gaborone — President Mokgweetsi Masisi has shot down claims of a widely reported story last week linking the alleged mass slaughtering of close to 90 elephants with the disarmament of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DNWP) Anti-poaching Unit.
The news report caused a global frenzy hogging international news headlines.
In a short media session at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport VIP wing upon his arrival from Seychelles on September 8, President Masisi noted that the stretch of imagination linking the alleged killings and the disarmament was nothing, but hysteria.
"It's illogical and fatally flawed in logic because it is diametrically opposed to the principle of an addiction to the rule of law.
You cannot promote illegality and claim you are law-abiding. Even for a government that I lead if we find that there is something that we do, however well-intentioned it is, if it's illegal I will not allow it," he stated.
President Masisi noted that while in China recently he held lengthy talks with his Chinese counterpart Mr Xi Jingping and one of the things they discussed was the illicit trade in ivory.
"China had always been a big market for those who traded in ivory, and he told me, he pledged to me, he promised me that they put a stop to it and they will ramp up the policing of the banned importation of ivory.
This was not a prepared text it was what we discussed. That there is an association with my going to China and reports that emerged I can only assume that it's coincidental, but nothing to do with my stance as being hostile to conservation," he said.
President Masisi noted that those who knew him know that he has a very long history and track record in matters of environment management, education and conservation.
"Its deep, and besides being President of Botswana particularly this time one of the key responsibilities you have is to responsibly manage the assets of the nation. I have to manage them responsibly with diligence, I got to manage resources, flora fauna, infrastructure resources, the naturally occurring resources such as our mineral wealth, there's no way I could be associated with banditry and illegality," he said.
President Masisi said he had instructed his ministers to consult Batswana extensively as Botswana was built on consultation.
"We are going to consult very honestly and very transparently. If those who have instructed us for many years on the virtues of good governance and democratic dispensation, participatory engagement are suddenly finding reason to suspect that this engagement is not in harmony with what they have been thinking then we will have another conversation with them," he said.
President Masisi said everything was going to be sorted out, even though it could be long drawn out, Botswana and Batswana would prevail.
"This country is ours, it's ours before everybody else."
A government statement last week slammed the 'elephants slaughter' report, attributed to Elephants Without Borders (EWB), as 'false and misleading', saying 'at no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana'.
The statement further noted that the withdrawal of weapons did not affect DWNP operations as there were other strategic interventions.
It also noted that the withdrawal was in sync with existing legislation which does not allow them to own such weapons.
Elephants Without Borders is a non-governmental organisation contracted by government to carry out the dry season aerial survey of elephants and wildlife in northern Botswana.
The survey started on July 5 and is expected to end by September 30. BOPA